David Browne, Regional Executive, Telviva

While a growing number of organisations have been forced to enable remote working in light of various levels of global restrictions, the focus has often been on digitisation in terms of moving applications to the cloud. But, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on nurturing cloud communities to ensure that secure access to apps and data is provided to the right people.

The challenge for modern businesses is no longer just getting their branches networks connected, but providing access to employees who are now located across many geographic locations. Companies are also turning to a hybrid model, with employees working remotely and from the physical office. 

Digital service providers are increasingly providing private spaces for communication and collaboration – think of WhatsApp groups and online multiplayer services provided by game console manufacturers – and the same consideration needs to be given to an online community that has exploded in popularity over the past year – corporate employees.

As such, organisations are increasingly turning to provide a platform or approach for their employees to be able to communicate clearly and effectively with each other through any channel, and interact with data in a fast and efficient manner. This brings context, and helps them make the right decisions faster.

Balancing access with security

The balancing act lies in providing employees with a similar experience and ease of use that they have grown accustomed to with their personal applications, but taking the added security considerations and policies of the organisation into account. 

This is especially important as the default behaviour is for employees to access work applications or legacy IT environment over public internet connections. The concern isn’t only around keeping proprietary information of the business safe, but also details about their customers – especially in light of implementation of data and privacy regulations such as GDPR in Europe or PoPI locally.

Businesses have tended to use virtual private networks (VPNs) in the past, and while these do provide an added measure of security, there is a lack of visibility, and organisations are unable to know whether their applications are working as intended, and whether they are providing a qualitative service.

In order to create seamless cloud communities where employees can interact with each other securely, businesses need a solution that provides a foundation layer with security and authentication at its core. With the advancement of technology, this foundation layer has moved away from being a physical device and into a virtual environment that enables consumption from anywhere – and is now known as Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN).

Keeping businesses in control

SD-WAN provides organisations with full visibility so that they are always in control: dashboards allow for orchestration across the businesses LAN, WAN, applications and security, while they are able to determine who is accessing what data, what are the levels of protection and what the user experience is. 

This allows businesses to start bridging their traditional networks with their cloud-based infrastructure, while they also stand to benefit from being able to use more cost-effective broadband services rather than MPLS to access the company network – all while bringing the corporate level of security down to the device level.

And, contrary to perceptions, businesses don’t have to switch everything from their traditional networking architecture toward SD-WAN in one go either. With the foundation layer in place, organisations can shift different parts of their network at different times (starting with employees and moving up to the branch networks), helping them make the transition in a safe, secure and risk-free manner.